(Pro Tips for Largemouth Bass are available here.)
-- Mike Baker, Five Time Bass Pro Crappiemasters Classic Qualifier
To catch crappie you must first understand their habits. To begin with, remember crappie always look up. They are not bottom feeders. Crappie like to hang around some type of structure, such as stumps or docks. They will almost always be on the darkest side of whatever structure they are near—shade under a dock, for instance. Since they look up, keep your baits above them. This can be done with a slip bobber changing the depth until you get a bite, or by jigging your bait up and down and targeting shady areas. Crappies’ favorite bait is the minnow. Use a large minnow on an Aberdeen hook, or tip a jig with a smaller minnow so as not to offer a combined bait that is too large for the crappies’ mouth. This technique can be used either from a dock or a boat and is a way anybody can catch crappie.
Catching crappies year round
-- Mike Baker, Five Time Bass Pro Crappiemasters Classic Qualifier
Most people think that crappie are a seasonal fish, but the truth is that in Florida crappie can be caught 12 months of the year. After the spring spawn, they do not disappear, they are pretty much in the same areas they were during the spawn just not quite as aggressive and possibly a little farther out. Rather than protecting their beds, they are following the bait fish in schools. Regardless of the depth of the water put out several rods with your bait suspended at various depths between one and five feet, where the oxygen content in the water is better. Take a #2 wire hook or jig with a minnow hooked in the lip and either drift or troll, chances are you will catch one. Once you catch a crappie pay attention to the depth of the bait and set the rest of your rods to the same depth. Then work the general area where the first one was caught, hopefully more will follow.
Butterfly Peacock Bass
Peacock bass fishing
-- Alan Zaremba, Owner/Operator of Worldwide Peacock Bass (www.FloridaPeacocks.com)
Angling enthusiasts travel from all over the world to South America to seek the beautiful and aggressive peacock bass that, thanks to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s foresightedness, we have right here in the canals of south Florida. After extensive research and discussion, peacock bass were stocked in box cut drainage canals of Miami-Dade and Broward counties in the early 1980’s, to help control smaller, less desirable non-native fishes and convert them into a sport fish that anglers can enjoy.
Myself and many other fishing guides, bait-and-tackle shops and local businesses have prospered as a result. Anglers wishing to fish for these and other exotics may want to seek the advice of a local fishing guide, but here are a few tips to get you started.
Peacock bass are different than most North American sport fish in that they are almost exclusively caught during the day. My favorite lure is a #9 floating Rapala, fished on a medium action rod, and using 6-pound monofilament. Another option is to toss a 3/8ths oz. jig with a curly tail. For jig fishing, I prefer a medium-heavy action rod, and load 15-pound braid, with two feet of 20-pound monofilament leader.
These rigs will not only capture peacocks, which I release, but often entice native bass or other non-native fish to strike. Jaquar guapote and Mayan cichlids, which should be placed on ice and taken home for a meal rather than being released, are now part of Florida’s Big Catch angler recognition program.
-- Don Minchew, Catfish Tournament Organizer and angler
Flathead catfish are now one of the top predator fish in the river system. In order to catch them during the day, I recommend fishing close to structures or mouths of sloughs and creeks that dump into the river. For late afternoon or night, fishing off sand bars is usually the best. I prefer fishing with a 3/0 to 4/0 reel and a medium to heavy rod with 4 to 8 ounce lead rigged Carolina style or a 3-way (grouper rig) and 40 to 60 pound test line. To catch larger ones, I use hand size live bait with a 4/0 to 6/0 hook. Smaller ones can be caught on worms, crawfish, shiners, or other live baits.
The blue cat is a scavenger catfish. I recommend you fish current breaks and mouths of sloughs where you have multiple streams of water coming together. Cut bait is my bait of choice. I prefer mullet entrails or the head and entrails of an oily type bait fish, such as freshwater skipjack, shad or bream. I use a 2/0 to 3/0 reel with a 7 feet long medium to heavy action rod, along with 30 to 40 pound test line, 1 to 2 ounce sinker and a 3/0 to 6/0 hook based on the size of the bait.
Live bait fishing
-- Todd Kersey, Chair, Florida Freshwater Fisheries Coalition (www.FLFFC.org)
Many anglers enjoy fishing with live bait, as a fun, productive way to catch panfish, bass and countless other freshwater species.
Here are a few tips to improve your success with both catch and release. First use circle hooks. They work really well to hook more fish with less effort and using circle hooks helps hold the live bait in place properly. They also tend to hook the fish in such a way that, if you release them, they are subject to less injury and survive better.
Second, start by learning, watching and reacting to the fishes’ feeding habits while fishing. Gut hooking fish happens for various reasons, but in live-bait fishing it mostly occurs by letting the fish take the bait for too long before setting the hook. I have learned over the years to pay attention to each fish you catch that day. When you reel your first fish in, look where the hook is located. Throughout the day the hook set will change with the feeding cycle of the fish. As the bite slows, the fish tend to carry the bait before eating it. Adjust the length of time you let the fish take your bait, by how the previous fish was caught. Learning the fish’s feeding cycles and using a circle hook will help prevent you from gut hooking your next fish!
Take a kid fishing
-- Shaw Grigsby, Tournament angler, Host of “One More Cast”, Author of “Bass Master Shaw Grigsby: Notes on Fishing and Life”
Some of my fondest memories are of the times when I went fishing with my parents, children and grandson. As I look back on those memories, it was not the fish that I remember the most, it was the experiences.
The most important thing I have learned about taking a child fishing is to make it their day. If they get to the water and don’t want to fish, that’s okay. Allow the kids to do what they want, ride around in the boat, wade and catch little fish along the bank, or go swimming. When they are ready to fish, they will.
Once you get to fish, let them land the fish, even the ones you hook. Take a minute and look at the fish, its fins, gills and colors. Show them how to gently hold the fish, let it go and watch it swim away or take it home and let them help you prepare it for dinner.
Take time to observe what is going on around you while you fish. Watch for wildlife, you never know what you will see. Fishing is a wonderful way to introduce our children to the outdoors and to begin to teach them how to care for the environment.